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Applying for Graduate Studies at Cornell's Department of Psychology

Many thanks for your interest in the Cognitive Neuroscience Lab. I have assembled here a list of questions people frequently ask, and some answers. I hope this information will be helpful to you!

Will you be taking students next fall?

In principle, yes, I will be accepting students. In practice, this depends on all manner of other factors (how many graduate student slots are allocated to the Perception-Cognition-Development area, which other labs are looking for students, who applies, etc.). But most likely yes, I'm likely to accept students.

How do I apply?

You should be able to find the information you need on the psych graduate program webpage and the psych grad aplication FAQ. Additional information about graduate studies at Cornell can be found on the grad school website. To apply, you'll be using the following on-line application form. If you have any questions not answered by these websites, you can try to contact the Psychology Graduate Field Secretary.

What do I need to do to get in?

The most important thing is to apply. Put together the best application package you can. The admissions committee is looking for people with an excellent academic record, demonstrated ability, and match in research interests. All parts of your application matter (grades, test-scores, essay, letters of recommendation, and so on). So just put together the best application package you can, and apply.

Can you tell me if I'll get in?

The only way to find out is to apply. The admission process in the Department of Psychology at Cornell is organized around research areas. Each faculty member within the Perception-Cognition-Development area goes trough all relevant applications and makes recomendations for whom to admit. Admissions are then done by a cross-area admissions committee, not by individual professors. So unfortunately, I can't tell anyone if they'll get in. There is just no way to know until the admissions process is complete.

OK, but what are my chances of getting in?

We get many applications, and don't have many available slots, so the competition is pretty tough. Obviously the chances of getting in are not evenly distributed across the applicant pool, so don't worry about the numbers and just do your best to prepare yourself to apply.

I am not a psych or cogsci major, can I still apply?

Yes. We often accept students who do not come from a traditional psych background. Lab members have come in with undergraduate degrees in Biology, Engineering, Linguistics, and Philosophy.

Do I need research experience to be accepted in graduate school?

It is very rare for people to be admitted to our graduate program without some research experience. Research experience is important for a number of reasons. First, it helps you figure out whether or not you really like research. Second, it helps us figure out whether or not you're good at it. Third, getting research experience is the best way to get contentful letters of recommendation. So, if you are thinking of going to graduate school, definitely try to get some research experience!

Do I need to take (insert name of test here) to apply?

If the application says you do, then yes you do.

Can you tell me about the research projects you're working on now?

You can get an overall picture of what we do on the CNL research page. Some of our ongoing work includes:
  • Language evolution: Mathematical, computational, and experimental modeling of cultural evolution; genetic and ethnicity studies of cognitive/perceptual processes underlying language
  • Language acquisition: Cross-situational and statistical learning experiments with children and adults; computational and experiemental studies of sound symbolism
  • Language processing: Individual differences in statistical learning and language; experience and sentence processing
If you would like to get a more detailed picture of what's happening in the lab, take a look at the talks and posters that lab members are presenting at conferences. We often present work at Cognitive Science, Psychonomics, BUCLD, SRCD, and EvoLang, among others.

Can I come visit your lab/do a department visit to see what it's like?

If you are selected by the admissions committee, you will be invited to our prospective graduate student weekend, where you'll get to meet all the folks in the department and spend time with the graduate students and learn a great deal about what we all do here and what life at Cornell is like. So, please apply, and if the admissions committee selects you, you will be invited. We can't really do department or lab visits otherwise.

Can I call you/set up an appointment to discuss my application?

In the interest of fairness, I ask everyone to just apply and go through the same application process. I do not set up special meetings or phone calls with folks before they apply because it would not be fair to all of the other people who apply who don't get a special meeting or phone-call. So, please just apply. We look forward to reading your application!

Adapted from Lera Boroditsky's FAQ with kind permission.

Cornell University